Science 3 min read

Controlling Thermal Profiles of Linked Nanoparticles

For the first time, scientists have used light alone to actively control the thermal profiles of connected gold nanoparticles.

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Image courtesy of Shutterstuck

Can you put two linked sausages in the oven but cook one only? The task is obviously impossible to accomplish.

However, a team of scientists did this using a pair of nanoparticles!

The aim was not to cook the sausages but to heat one and keep the other unaffected.

Now, the benefits that can be derived from the experiment could go from engineering to medical fields.

Nano Thermal Profiles Under Control

In the nanoworld, objects are so small that the slightest change in one object’s thermal profile affects its neighboring object directly. If one nanoparticle heats up, so would the other to approximately the same temperature due to heat diffusion.

Controlling the thermal profiles at the nanoscale isn’t an easy task, but a team of researchers did it with gold nanoparticles.

Scientists from Rice University, the University of Washington, and Temple University managed to heat one nanoparticle leaving the other unaffected.

“If you put two similar objects next to each other on a table, ordinarily you would expect them to be at the same temperature. The same is true at the nanoscale,” said lead corresponding author David Masiello.

“Here, we can expose two coupled objects of the same material composition to the same beam, and one of those objects will be warmer than the other.”

For their experiment, the researchers used an electromagnetically linked pair of gold nanorods and exposed them to laser light to trigger heat.

Because of the size difference between the microscopic nanorods, they respond differently to wavelengths of light. Manipulating the light’s wavelength allows the production of heat at will in one nanorod more than the other.

The temperature difference between the coupled nanoparticles was as high as 20 degrees Celsius.

“This indirect measurement indicated that the nanorods had been heated to different temperatures, even though they were exposed to the same near-infrared beam and were close enough to be thermally coupled.”

The researchers noted that this is a first for them. It allowed the team to explore physical and chemical reactions that require the control of thermal profiles at the nanoscale. For instance, heat-assisted magnetic storage and photothermal therapies.

The results top off a three-year project, but the researchers don’t intend to stop here.

“We have lots of other new, interesting ideas in mind that we’re exploring based on this first paper,” Masiello, who’s also a professor of chemistry at Washington University, added.

Funded by the National Science Foundation as part of the U.S. government’s Materials Genome Initiative, the project was a real collaborative work. Masiello’s lab at Washington developed the theory while the teams over at Temple and Rice devised and ran the experiments.

Read More: Researchers Toughen Glass Using Silicon Carbide Nanoparticles

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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